Radiation-induced damage, such as inflammation and fibrosis, can compromise ventilation capability of local functional units (alveoli) of the lung. Ventilation function as measured with ventilation images, however, is often complicated by the underlying mechanical variations. The purpose of this study is to present a 4DCT-based method to measure the regional ventilation capability, namely, regional compliance, for the evaluation of radiation-induced lung damage.
Six 4DCT images were investigated in this study: One previously used in the generation of a POPI model and the other five acquired at Henry Ford Health System. A tetrahedral geometrical model was created and scaled to encompass each of the 4DCT image domains. Image registrations were performed on each of the 4DCT images using a multiresolution Demons algorithm. The images at the end of exhalation were selected as a reference. Images at other exhalation phases were registered to the reference phase. For the POPI-modeled patient, each of these registration instances was validated using 40 landmarks. The displacement vector fields (DVFs) were used first to calculate the volumetric variation of each tetrahedron, which represents the change in the air volume. The calculated results were interpolated to generate 3D ventilation images. With the computed DVF, a finite element method (FEM) framework was developed to compute the stress images of the lung tissue. The regional compliance was then defined as the ratio of the ventilation and stress values and was calculated for each phase. Based on iterative FEM simulations, the potential range of the mechanical parameters for the lung was determined by comparing the model-computed average stress to the clinical reference value of airway pressure. The effect of the parameter variations on the computed stress distributions was estimated using Pearson correlation coefficients.
For the POPI-modeled patient, five exhalation phases from the start to the end of exhalation were denoted by, , respectively. The average lung volume variation relative to the reference phase was reduced from 18% at to 4.8% at . The average stress at phase was 1.42, 1.34, 0.74, and 0.28 kPa, and the average regional compliance was 0.19, 0.20, 0.20, and 0.24 for , respectively. For the other five patients, their average value at the end-inhalation phase was 21.1%, 19.6%, 22.4%, 22.5%, and 18.8%, respectively, and the regional compliance averaged over all six patients is 0.2. For elasticity parameters chosen from the potential parameter range, the resultant stress distributions were found to be similar to each other with Pearson correlation coefficients greater than 0.81.
A 4DCT-based mechanical model has been developed to calculate the ventilation and stress images of the lung. The resultant regional compliance represents the lung's elasticity property and is potentially useful in correlating regions of lung damage with radiation dose following a course of radiation therapy.